Private sector employers asked to publish gender pay data voluntarily

Employers with more than 250 employees will not have to publish gender pay data, as previously proposed under the Equality Act 2010.

Instead, they will be asked to do so on a voluntary basis.

As part of the government’s Equality Strategy, which was announced 2 December by Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, the requirement is one of the remaining provisions which was not implemented with the Equality Act 2010 in October 2010.

The government intends to rely on a voluntary approach initially, encouraging organisations to voluntarily publish details of their gender pay gap. It will then review take-up on an annual basis, before deciding whether to make the obligation mandatory by implementing section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. 

Although the duty under section 78 is limited to organisations with 250 or more employees, the government also intends to target organisations with 150 or more employees with its voluntary measures. 

Public sector employers are already preparing for more extensive mandatory reporting duties from April 2011.

Speaking at the launch of the annual Female FTSE100 report, Featherstone said: “We want to move away from the arrogant notion that government knows best to one where government empowers individuals, businesses and communities to make change happen.”

Caroline Carter, head of the employment practice at law firm Ashurst, said: “Given that the gender pay reporting provisions will remain voluntary for the time being, it is unlikely there will be significant take-up. 

“However, organisations that rely on public sector contracts will likely come under significant pressure to publish the relevant information. This could cause problems for many employers for whom a gender pay gap still exists.

“There may also be pressure for listed and financial sector firms to comply, as part of wider industry pressure towards transparency in their pay structures.”

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